Man creating man

A doll is a miniature figure resembling a human. Most often it also represents a human - similar models of gods also exist, but they are often venerated and are so more correctly known as idols. The doll has a head and a body, very often limbs as well, and the face can be everything from blank to a detailed copy of the real thing.

Dolls have been made since time immemorial, from wood and cloth, porcelain and rubber, wax and paper. Dolls are mainly thought of as toys for children, but they also serve several important functions for adults. In all their forms, they offer man a way to play God: Dolls jump when you make them jump, stand where you place them, and accept praise and scolding with the same emotionless face.

The term doll can also be used to refer to a girl who is nice and pretty, probably because she exhibits many of the same traits as a real doll. Depending on usage, it can be complimentary or derogatory, but few women go through their life wanting to be dolls.

Mere Child's play

Above all, a doll is a children's plaything. Their traditional role has been for girls to be practising motherhood, most importantly in caring for the little one, but also in learning to sew clothes and play-act tea parties. Archeologists have found dolls all around the world, from ancient Egypt to Greenland.

With the growing toy industry dolls have been developed for all purposes. Talking, eating, peeing and crawling baby dolls attempt to be a girl's best friend and her parents' nuisance. Barbie dolls encourage girls to learn useful skills of fashion and consumerism, while Action man and his ilk try to teach boys the same.

Dolls for Grown-ups

The game of dressing, undressing and redressing the mute companion reaches fruition in the clothes shop, where assistants dress life-size models of wood or plastic in the very latest fashion. These giant dolls seldom have detailed facial featurers, but are often blessed with erect nipples, for some unfathomable reason. Dolls without any clothes at all find their mission with very lonely men, who use them to satisfy their carnal desires.

Dolls and Death

With equal gusto, people have used dolls to represent both life and death. In China the clay men of Xi'an stand ready to serve their dead emperor, in Haiti voodoo dolls shaped in the likeness of an enemy seek to destroy his life, health or happiness. It has been thought that the little models put into tombs along with their dead inhabitant will come to life to serve him in the next life. Opposite, the shape of a person along with something personal of his should be enough to give him grievous injury in the voudoun tradition.

Doll (?), n. [A contraction of Dorothy; or less prob. an abbreviation of idol; or cf. OD. dol a whipping top, D. dollen to rave, and E. dull.]

A child's puppet; a toy baby for a little girl.


© Webster 1913.

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